Add to that that battery technology is still very early. Batteries have a fixed charge/discharge cycle life and can wear out in less than a decade.
Is it viable to put in solar and a battery?
Solar power is a no-brainer with efficient systems now costing a few thousand dollars and payback time is around three to four years depending on matching energy use with the panel capacity. But solar panels are only good for about 6-8 hours a day, so a battery makes sense to cover night-time period or cloudy days.
Just a note here: Retailers are already aware of the impact of solar, so they now charge a daily ‘connection fee’ for the privilege of you being connected to the grid (and you must connect where the grid is available).
But what size battery?
The appropriate solar and battery system size is a very complex equation (beyond most of us) as it requires real-time energy data and use patterns (over the four seasons) to calculate size and payback.
- Brush up on your Excel spreadsheet skills, set up pivot tables and gather all that data and scratch your head
- OR accept a very one-sided battery subsidy deal that is win-lose for the supplier/you
- OR install an Emberpulse monitor and let it do all the work for you (a one-off installation cost of approx. $500 applies, and it monitors energy use for a lifetime).
If you take the apparently economic battery subsidy scheme, you are producing free power for the energy retailer who resells your solar/battery energy at about $0.32c per kWh back to other energy users. Their strategy is to own the rights to household solar and batteries and to utilise them as their own energy assets to sell into the energy market.
If you go the Emberpulse route, you will receive monthly reports to help you understand the real costs of using appliances during low, shoulder and peak times. That helps to educate you on the best times to use the dishwasher, washing machine dryer and airconditioning or local heating.
After a few months, you will receive a report on the best grid retailer to use to save money based on your energy usage – retailers hate that.
You will also receive a quarterly solar system assessment that shows if and when the household should consider solar conversion and battery installation. GadgetGuy has been trialling Emberpulse and will report on this separately.
The dirty secret is that under this scheme householders effectively lose over $200/kW ($2000 for 10kW battery) each year to the energy retailers.
The present system is out of balance – that is why our electricity costs so much
It has very high fixed costs (capital costs in generators, poles and wires, etc.) that must be paid for regardless of the amount of electricity we consume.
Renewables (let’s not get into politics here) are great but can generally only produce electricity when it’s windy or sunny, so they need the baseload to be covered by other forms. Lage-scale battery storage is good but costly per kW, so it is peak period coverage.
Ideally, we would have a high proportion of mini generators (solar and home batteries) to even out grid usage and even feed-back energy when needed. But this would disrupt the cosy profit-making of the current system. It would also shift the power (pun intended) back into the hands of the Australian householder.
The answer is the energy market is ripe for mass-market disruption by householders and opens up the opportunity for householders to significantly reduce the payback period of solar and battery if managed correctly.